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  Street of Shadows Et Tu, Cesar?
Year: 1953
Director: Richard Vernon
Stars: Cesar Romero, Kay Kendall, Edward Underdown, Victor Maddern, Simone Silva, Liam Gaffney, Bill Travers, Robert Cawdron, John Penrose, Molly Hamley-Clifford, Eileen Way, Paul Hardtmuth, Tony Sympson, Rose McLaren, Michael Kelly
Genre: Drama, ThrillerBuy from Amazon
Rating:  5 (from 1 vote)
Review: Limpy (Victor Maddern) as his name suggests suffers from a lame leg, leaving him limping through his days. This has also left him frustrated because he doesn’t think people, and specifically women, take him seriously, but he exhibits a kind heart today when he is out walking to the saloon bar where he works and sees an old lady (Molly Hamley-Clifford) lying in the street surrounded by concerned passersby. As this is just outside the club, he gets her inside for a sit down in the office of his boss, Luigi (Cesar Romero) where she recovers, and is recognised as a local fortune teller, so Limpy asks her for a prediction, but he can tell she is only saying what he wants to hear...

Although you would not know it from that opening ten minutes, Limpy was not our main character in Street of Shadows, renamed The Shadow Man in some territories, it was in fact Romero, one of many American stars imported to Britain to headline the movies made there for extra international appeal, or at least a saleable element for the lucrative North American market. To his presumed satisfaction he got to be the star of the show which he often did not in Hollywood, though nowadays he is less known for his Latin lover persona and more for his casting as The Joker in the nineteen-sixties television series Batman, where his maniacal laugh was one of the most memorable parts of the whole show.

He didn't do any laughing at all here, it was a very sombre affair in spite of Romero having a chance to romance Kay Kendall, one of the most popular British stars of her era, though that era was short as she died tragically young before the fifties were even over. For this reason, along with her bright personality and distinctive good looks (large, dark eyes, retroussé nose), she has enjoyed a cult following ever since, though Street of Shadows was not one of her most popular films (vintage car comedy Genevieve would be what she was best recalled for). In this she played Barbara, an unhappy young wife who gets mixed up with Luigi when he is accused of murder.

Albeit a murder accusation that turns up about halfway into the film, for the most part this was one of those crime dramas the British film industry were churning out that were preoccupied with nightclub owners, presumably because in such establishments the criminal element would rub shoulders with the more law-abiding public to strike sparks. At least that was the idea, but it was Luigi who was the innocent here, as we see he is more interested in being on the level as a small businessman, so there's no way he could have been the culprit. Actually, the identity of the killer was so obvious that the film barely qualified as a mystery at all, leaving it more a wait to see if they would be caught rather than if they did it.

Funnily enough, the supporting actress who played the victim died even before Kendall did, she was Simone Silva, a sultry pin-up better known for her publicity stunts than her movies, so this offered an opportunity to see what she was like as an actress, which was that she was obviously cast for her Mediterranean beauty and exotic (to Brits) accent. At least you feel sorry that her character exited early, but for quite a bit of the story it appeared as if writer and director Richard Vernon (a producer making his only film at the helm, not to be confused with the actor of the same name) was more caught up in producing the atmosphere and milieu of his locations than he was in delivering a compelling thriller. There were suspense sequences, and Luigi becomes a man on the run when events turn against him, but it was too subdued for real edge of the seat tension, and certainly featured an overqualified cast for what amounted to a trifle of a crime melodrama. Music by Eric Spear, with Tommy Reilly’s harmonica well to the fore which at least gives it a distinctive soundtrack.

[A trailer and gallery are the extras on Network's British Film DVD, with a restored print.]
Reviewer: Graeme Clark


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